Google Squared goes live with mixed results

Google's latest search experiment presents results in spreadsheet form, which could be very useful for researchers if the data returned was useful rather than amusing.

Google Squared developers are quite welcome to join my fantasy baseball team next year. Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

Google turned on Google Squared Wednesday, letting the public test out its attempt to present search results in grid format.

Google Squared was first demonstrated at Google's Searchology event in May , when the company showed off how a query for a category such as "U.S. Presidents" would return a number of results for the gentlemen who have held that office sorted by categories, such as political party, number of terms in office, years in office, as well as any number of customized categories.

This is very much a Google Labs project, far from a complete part of the Google search experience, and early experiments left a lot to be desired. Google Squared finds Web pages that have been indexed, just like with a regular search, but presents them in a spreadsheet format that, if the data was relevant, could potentially be more useful to someone doing research on a particular topic.

For example, take a subject where reams of statistical and historical data can be found on the Internet: baseball.

Google Squared was unable to return any results for "New York Mets third basemen," which was admittedly a joke query on my part based on the fact that the Mets are notorious for having a revolving door at the third base position over their 47-year history; I thought that would produce a long list of names. When I widened the query to just "third basemen," Google Squared came up with the names of seven baseball players who have occupied that position, several of whom are or were prominent players (Matt Williams, Terry Pendleton, and current Mets third baseman David Wright), and one who none of the baseball fans in the office could recall (Ken Reitz).

The search produced results for several relevant categories, such as a description of the player, date of birth, and whether they batted left or right. But when I tried to suggest additional categories, such as "All-Star," it was only able to find one appearance in the All-Star game by David Wright, missing appearances by Terry Pendleton and Robin Ventura.

Likewise, Google Squared suggested "Batting Average" as an additional category, but failed to return any results. That's a statistic that can be easily found on the Web for any player, living or dead, with a regular Google search.

A simpler search for just "baseball teams" produced several current Major League Baseball teams, but also helpfully provided the schedule for this year's Williamette University Bearcats squad, which finished the regular season with a 21-17 record.

But when a product was entered into Google Squared, the technology showed its promise, such as in this list of search results for "Nikon" that lists several different models of Nikon digital cameras along with specifications and features. Search Engine Land also noted helpful results for a search on "U2 albums."

Google's not trying to pretend this technology is ready for prime time, and with good reason: lots of refinements will be needed to turn it into a useful tool. Let us know how your experiments with Google Squared turn out.

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About the author

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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